The value of a bespoke nutrition plan

By Renee McGregor

There is no doubt that interest in nutrition has risen significantly in recent years, particularly with the advent of Instagram. It seems that never before has what we eat been of such importance. There are many different opinions that cause a huge amount of controversy in the world of nutrition.

With more and more individuals claiming to be “experts” in nutrition and offering advice, is there really any benefit to a bespoke nutrition plan?

Within the sports world, nutrition is integral to sport performance. While most of us will appreciate its role in fuelling training and recovery, what you may not be aware of is the extended role it plays with regards to body composition, bone health, consistency in training, mood and motivation including the prevention of illness and injury.

In fact, one of my main roles as a sports dietitian working with athletes of all levels and across a variety of sports is educating them on what makes the most nutrient dense choices dependent on their training load, intensity, general lifestyle, genetics and gender.

Training is a stimulus – every time we run, regardless of whether this is hills, race pace or a long trail run, we are further developing the neuromuscular pathway between our brain and muscle; recruiting more muscle fibres and nerves to become stronger, faster, leaner or build endurance. This process takes a lot of energy which is why when, and how, you fuel and recover around training sessions is critical to achieve performance outcomes.

Insufficient carbohydrate availability around high intensity training sessions can result in a low or no production of growth hormone which is essential for speed progression and production of lean muscle mass. Similarly, chronic energy deficiency will potentially impact every biological process within the body.

When there is a relative energy deficiency, the body has evolved to prioritise movement over physiological function; thus metabolic rate can be reduced as much as up to a third and the body will actually preserve energy, halting or slowing biological systems such as hormonal, cardiovascular, digestive and mental health.

When I work with a new athlete/runner, I take time to get to know them, not just their mileage and races. It’s important to get a feel for their life in general including the type of job they have and what implications this may have for meal times and training. Can they cook, what is their budget and general understanding of nutrition. What are their body composition goals and are they realistic?

https://run-ultra.com/media/images/Renee%2520McGregor%2520Nutrition%2520article%2520April%252019/Renee-McGregor-RunUltra-Nutrition-article-April-19-image-2.jpg

From this you start to build a plan. If they have a coach, you work with them and the training schedule that has been developed. So, not only do you provide nutritional strategies to enhance training and allow for consistency, you also take into consideration the practicality.

If a runner has to do a high percentage of their running early in the morning, they may think it’s best to do this fasted but helping them to understand their end goals and the processes required to get there, you can provide them with suitable suggestions.

In this particular situation, I would recommend something light and easily digestible prior to their morning commute, maybe a banana, yoghurt or handful of dried fruit, followed by a portable breakfast once in the office. Good examples include Bircher style muesli, peanut butter and banana wrap or porridge pot topped with nuts and dried fruit.

Another key area of working with a nutritional professional is honing in on race day strategy – it’s such an important aspect of performance.  You should practise your race day nutrition plan at race pace, so that you can go into the race confident that this will work for you.

I work with many runners who train hard but don’t practise fuelling, only for this to be their limiting factor on race day. A good nutrition practitioner and plan will work on the principle of trialling different options, take on feedback from the runner and then devise a plan that they know works from all aspects i.e. it hits race day requirements nutritionally, it can be tolerated and tastes good.

Similarly, something I focus on with my clients is ensuring that we have a contingency plan. Even with the best build up and preparation, we don’t have control over everything so it’s good to have worked through the worst case scenarios and what your solution will be. Again, this just helps the runner go into a race day situation with confidence.

Working with someone who can help you understand your nutritional requirements around training and lifestyle is extremely important in order to get the best out of your performance. The difficulty is making sure that your nutrition information and planning is coming from a credible source.

Not only is this critical to get appropriate advice for you as an individual, but it’s also important to work with someone who can help you monitor your progress and behaviour. One thing a nutrition plan should never do is make you more obsessive.

While there are always times when you may need to be more vigilant with your diet, the most successful athletes I’ve worked with are the ones that also understand downtime and balance.

 

"When I work with a new athlete/runner, I take time to get to know them, not just their mileage and races. It’s important to get a feel for their life in general including the type of job they have and what implications this may have for meal times and training."

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Like what you read?

Click here to sign up for more

Related articles

Global - Virtual

Elevation

A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Elevation

An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Brutal

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Expert

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Advanced

Elevation

Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Intermediate

Elevation

Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Beginner

Elevation

Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.